What’s better: controlling a turret, or little inconsequential choices?

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Last week, you decided (barely!) that drawbacks are better than a load of lasers. I feel I should’ve defined drawbacks more narrowly but there’ll be chaos if introduce undosies. Onwards! Next, I present a choice between two oft-disliked things. What’s better: controlling a turret, or little inconsequential choices?

Controlling a turret

No, stop booing. You can’t be out here hissing before I’ve even started. I know, it’s widely held that playing turret is awful, that it’s a holdover from the bombastic and brotastic noughties, that it rips you out of the game you were enjoying. Counterpoint: dakka dakka dakka!

Confession: I like it when a video game goes “Hey, do you just want to blow stuff up for five minutes? I know you were running about, and we’re into some plot or whatever, but do you want to just do explosions and loud noises? We’ve put a lot of effort into our explosions and loud noises, you know. Tell you what, I’ll even stand some men next to some red barrels, and make the men dramatically fly into the air if you shoot them. Aw c’mon, you can just hold down your mouse button and look at colours for five minutes.” Thank you video game, I will hold my mouse button down for five minutes and admire the effort you’ve made.

Also, way back when, one of the first games I bought after seeing it on RPS was 100% turret:

There’s a time and a place for it, of course. Too much turret or too bad turret in some games (or both, hello Dead Space!) caused much animosity. But if our deliberations stumbled across something that was universally good, I’d likely call this whole thing off because we’d have our answer (I do suspect cats might be such a thing). So while we’re in the process of narrowing down our options, let me ask you: wouldn’t you like to go dakka dakka dakka dakka dakka dakka dakka dakka dakka dakka dakka dakka dakka, right now, just for a few minutes?

Little inconsequential choices

Some choices in video games are huge. Kingdoms will rise, gods will fall, civilisations will change course, entire planets will be vaporised. Some choices are life or death to a single person. Some torture, kill, or redeem. Some define relationships (doubtless a character “will remember that”). And some choices are just there, just because. They don’t change the outcome of the plot, or a quest, or even a single conversation, but they’re still choices you can make, they still require forming intent. I adore these little inconsequential choices.


Chatting to a petrol station about a giant ball of twine in a Paratopic screenshot.
Who, ME?

One of my favourite dialogue choices comes in first-person spook-o-walker Paratopic, chatting with a petrol station attendant in the barrens about local attractions. He’ll ask if you’re interested in a giant ball of twine and you have three choices: 2) express interest; 3) skip over the topic; and 1) say you’re not interested in giant balls of twine, an option which is explicitly marked as a lie. Turns out, #1 and #2 lead to the same response (I’m 90% sure?) but oh, what a wonderful tiny little inconsequential choice #1 is. Everything is exactly the same yet I have learned and decided so much about the character I’m playing.

I like any such choice which, if plotted onto a complex flowchart of the game’s coded systems, would be a dead end. These choices exist to form me, to express me, to change me. Thinking something internally, unheard by anyone. A broad wardrobe of outfits with no different stats or bonuses. Reacting with a different emotion. Behaving morally when no morality system is taking notes. Committing minor crimes just because I can. The option to change the colour of something. Options which exist simply to let me inhabit a space and a life more. I don’t think I’d include formally objectiveless games like It’s Winter (where you can, if you want, carefully fry an egg then flush it down the toilet); maybe they’re best in games with goals or alongside ‘big’ choices. But there, I’ll take picking a nice hat, throwing some jerk’s lamp out a window, or lying about my interest in megatwine over singlehandedly deciding the fate of a kingdom, any day.

But which is better?

I do like the dakka but yeah, give me little inconsequential choices. While some games push towards consequences for everything, a number assigned to my morality, my presence the most impactful of anyone alive, I’m living a life full of tiny little decisions that no one but me will ever recognise, and I’m delighted with them.

Pick your winner, make your case in the comments, then we’ll reconvene next week to see which thing stands triumphant—and continue the great contest.

This week, I’m trying an embedded voting doodad to see if it’s… good? Useful? Desireable? So vote in the poll here below. But do still make your case to convince others!


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